On a bad day, my anxiety would manifest my biggest fears, it would make me feel alone, scared and somewhat irritable for lack of a better word. That irritable feeling I would feel was more of an intense feeling that wouldn’t allow me to focus on anything. It could last for a day at the least or a couple of days at the most. I’m not sure how my anxiety started manifesting itself but when I look back I remember it probably started when I became a mother for the first time. Before motherhood, I was carefree and relaxed. Not having too many worries in my younger years was indeed a gift. A precious momentary gift until the burdens of life began to take their toll on me.
When my daughter was first born she had colic. Many newborns have battle with colic which usually disappears within a few weeks or months. I was an anxious new mother without a clue. When my daughter was diagnosed colic I immediately blamed myself. Babies are born with colic, they get colds, fevers, the list goes on. This is all part and parcel of their growth and development. The initial ‘innocent’ feelings of blame and guilt eventually grew to years of irrational fear and panic that something ‘bad’ and awful would happen to my kids or my family. As a second-time mum my anxieties only grew as I became anxious about going to sleep at night because I dreaded the interrupted sleep each night which comes with having newborn. Over an extended period, my anxieties about the little things began to grow, constant anxiety that one day my husband would leave the house and never return because something horrible would happen to him, anxiety that my daughter would drown in our pool, and so on and so forth the list was endless. It became a festering wound that would get bigger and slowly sift its way into various other areas of my life unbeknownst to me. Anxiety stopped me from experiencing true joy and caused a constant panic and fear in me that I came to believe was normal mostly because I never spoke them out loud-to anyone.
What does God says about anxiety?
The Bible mentions anxiety and thankfully we have a God who already knew all the answers to life’s problems. “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you”. ( 1 Peter 5:7) God is interested in the smallest things in our lives and especially every worry and fear that keeps us awake at night. Luke 12:7 says “He knows the very hairs on your head are numbered so do not be afraid, you are worth than many sparrows”. These precious words of comfort are a source of healing. We may not see immediate changes to our everyday fears or struggles. Over time, God opened my eyes and I slowly began to realise that what I was feeling had a name – ANXIETY and it most certainly was not a normal feeling. The devil wants us to believe that what we are feeling is completely normal and by doing so we continue along a negative spiral. One that causes us to miss out on what God has planned for us. I was able to start dealing with the root of those feelings and eventually over time the feelings of worry, panic, fear and anxiety became less intense and infrequent. At times I may feel like anxiety is right at my door but the difference is that I know now that God has me in the palm of His hand.
God wants us all to live a life an abundant life. His plan for me doesn’t involve feelings of anxiety, panic or fear. He sees me as a courageous, fearless and powerful woman. Sometimes I need a reminder of who I am because on some days I may I forget or I allow the worries of life to overwhelm me. On the days where I feel anxiety trying to re-establish itself back into my life I turn to God for assurance because He has the last say. I don’t need to be anxious over the future, over the well-being of my family or anything else that might want to steal my focus or distract me from looking up to the one who has the final say.
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It’s been a good few weeks since the start of lock-down here in the UK. It’s Bank Holiday today which means a long weekend!.. A ‘public’ holiday as we would call it South Africa which thankfully for my family means we get do no absolutely NOTHING! This morning I asked my daughter what she would like to do and the above was her response so we’re definitely on the same page! Even though we are currently on lock-down our Mondays to Fridays as a family are full on. The kids have online school from 8.30am till 4pm and I have to home-school my younger son throughout the week. Some days he feels great about home schooling while other days he lies in a crumpled heap on the floor not wanting to do the work set out for him.
I’ve been feeling increasingly anxious about homeschooling my son with each day that passes, so much so that I have started dragging myself out of bed each morning. I am not a teacher and simply trying my best although not fully sure I’m even doing a great job. It has been trying playing both mum and teacher and trying to keep him motivated. I admit I have felt an intense pressure to be motivated every.single.day! There are honestly days where I would prefer to sit in front of the telly doing absolutely nothing and watching some of my favourite most shameful reality shows instead. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to simply relaxing today but sadly I seem to have woken up with a somewhat less than positive attitude. This lock-down has me so confused in my feelings. This morning I immediately felt guilty about not feeling thankful or blessed that we are safe as a family during this awful pandemic. I mean, there are people suffering all over the world and therefore who am I to harbour these ‘unholy’ feelings? I do realise however that I for one need to constantly remind and re-assure myself that I am only human and it’s far better to acknowledge these feelings of restlessness and ask God to help me conquer the oncoming day. Some days I wake up feeling great and other days well…not so much. Its ok to not feel like ‘getting things done’ at times much like the way my son feels about his home schooling on some days. As a mum I need to allow him to express his feelings of frustration and acknowledge those feelings. God reminded me in that moment that I need to allow myself to acknowledge my frustration on this particular day instead of covering it up or worse..feeling guilty about feeling this way. It’s so much easier to talk to God and let him know ‘Hey, God today I am not so feeling great…’. When I choose to do this instead of wallowing in guilt and allowing these negative thoughts to define my day He somehow takes care of the rest. My day falls into place and by 4pm I’m left wondering how I managed to have moments of fun with my kids despite the stress of home schooling all day!
Our God is a God who is consistent and never changes (unlike like my moods). I can wake up each and every morning knowing that His grace is enough and If I happen to wake up tomorrow morning in an awful mood once again, I can rest assured that His face is smiling down on me and He is pleased with what he sees.
Proverbs 31:25 – “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future”
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future..
I remember my earlier days of being a young mum and housewife whilst still living in South Africa. Oh those days were hard particularly as I had no other ‘mum’ friends around me. None of my friends had their own children and therefore it was hard for them to understand my plight. I certainly felt a distance from them and as we were on different paths at that point in time. I spent most most of my days with just my daughter. I enjoyed this but did long for companionship with other mothers. There is certainly a connection that exists between mothers. We sympathise with one another especially as first time mums. This understanding sometimes leads to life long friendships as well as temporary connections as we navigate the joy, confusion and exhaustion of motherhood together. I admit I didn’t always enjoy my days of being a housewife when I still lived in South Africa. I often felt judged by others for not being a full time working mum. Looking back I allowed the opinion of others to define who I was. At that time, I needed to be a full time mother to my daughter. I was lucky enough to have the support of my husband financially. I certainly felt displaced in a society where most women go out to work and the culture of staying at home with young children seems unusual to say the least.
When I moved to England I slowly felt that being a housewife fit in with my journey. I quickly met other stay at home mothers and felt a sense of belonging in some ways. Traditionally in England one parent will stay at home with the children while the other parent provides financially towards the household and this is a common theme amongst many families owing to the high cost of childcare in particular. I was able to make friends quickly and although settling into a new country was tough, I was glad to meet a community of mothers. I finally felt less guilty about being a stay at home mum because well, everybody else around me was a stay at home mum so of course this new country was the perfect place for me.
This had me thinking about how we allow others to define who we are in life. We try to live up to the standards of what the world tells us we should be. When you become a mum your’e expected to have a million other things going at the same time. Juggling careers, business ventures, various other ‘outside’ pursuits which we believe will define us or give us a place in society. The Bible honours mothers and places us in such high regard that we often forget how valuable we are. We are raising families and little humans. One friend always reminds me that what we do is more important than anything else in this world.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come
She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tounge
She looks well to all the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all”
Charm is decietful, and beauty is vain
But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.